A friend was singing in a performance of Handel's Messiah on Saturday. A small amateur choir with a group of young professional soloists with the soloists singing in the choruses as well. Quite sensible and very much as Handel would have expected.
This set me to thinking about performances of Handel in his own day; we know so little about them. But most commentators agree that his soloists sang in the choruses with his choir. This is a little curious as the soloists, particularly the women, were beasts of the opera house and his choir was made up of boy trebles and male choristers. Just what sort of choral sound did he get when Galli or La Francesina sang along with the boys and men. Its an issue that we'll just never really know about. Unless someone comes up with a contemporary diary which goes into some detail. Or better yet, a memorandum from Handel on the subject!
Then on Sunday night it was our turn to do Messiah; Sir Colin Davis and the LSO. But one one aspect of this performance I was wrong. They did not use the London Symphony Chorus but the professional choir, Tenebrae; so there were just 34 choristers which was far closer to the thing. A full review follows.